“Milk and Honey”: Too vulgar or a good read?

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Bethany Sanderlin

The RHS library’s Banned Book Week display showed students the wide variety of books, like “Milk and Honey,” that have been banned over the years across the nation. A mugshot drawing of Janie Crawford, a character from another banned book, “Their Eyes Were Watching God” shares the shelf with the brown paper bag that hides her story.

The presence of “Milk and Honey” in the Roseburg High School library was first brought up by a concerned citizen in mid-October after an unknown person took a picture of the placard above the poetry section that contained an image of the book’s cover.”

— Cody Lyons

“Milk and Honey” is a book of poetry about a young woman’s story of abuse and her journey of healing from this abuse. The book also includes her thoughts on the behavior of people. She goes over how, because of her sexual abuse, she will never know the difference between making love and sex. She will always put her trust in a man that abuses her because that’s what she was taught. She wrote this not just to share how she overcame these obstacles, but to also show how people in the same situation can overcome such obstacles. The book explains not just her abuse, but her longing for what real love might feel like.

Controversy over the book

The presence of ”Milk and Honey” in the Roseburg High School library was first brought up by a concerned citizen in mid-October after an unknown person took a picture of the placard above the poetry section that contained an image of the book’s cover. Someone then combined this image with pictures of pages from the book, taken out of context, before proceeding to post about the book on social media, along with the name and contact information of the RHS district librarian, Marie Felgentrager. This caused quite a stir and had some other people wanting to address their opinions about a variety of topics with our librarian, some of which had nothing to do with the book in question. Mrs. Felgentrager had five calls from concerned individuals on the first day, some of whom didn’t even have children in our high school. While hate has been expressed towards “Milk and Honey” as a result of the social media attention, there have also been calls and posts supporting the book in the days since the initial outcry. “Milk and Honey” was purchased in 2016, two years before Mrs. Felgentrager started at RHS.

Should “Milk and Honey” be kept in our library, or should we censor it?

There is no pornographic material in “Milk and Honey.” The sole purpose of the book was a young woman’s choice to write poetry to help her heal from her past. Reading this book can bring awareness about abuse. While some would like to protect their children from such sad things in life, abuse is a very real thing, and many others would rather their child learn from an educational book of poetry rather than hearing someone’s raw experience and not knowing how to react. On the other hand, it makes sense that if a middle schooler were to pick up such a book, it could be quite traumatizing. Our library and many other libraries label books with graphic content, which gives parents the option to make it so their child cannot check out such books. This is at the parents’ discretion, giving the parent full control of what their students can and can’t read, without infringing on the rights of other students.

School taking action and showing responsibility

A formal request for reconsideration was filed. Following proper procedure, the Reconsideration Committee will meet to determine if the book will be kept or removed. An important thing to take note of is that “Milk and Honey” is available in high school libraries across Oregon and the United States. It is also carried in four high schools within the Douglas Educational Service District.